Harper Collins shifts loads of cut-price Cox

In further news of multi-hyphenate musicians bringing out things that could technically be described as books, The Guardian has word of instructive sales stats for the iPad book app of former D:Ream keyboardist and sometime TV physicist Brian Cox.

The Harper Collins-published Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe debuted in the App Store in March of this year, bringing together footage from Cox’s BBC TV show of the same name, excerpts from his already-published books spread across more than 200 interactive articles, assorted 3D models of everything from teeny-weeny subatomic particles to ruddy great big black holes, and a totally rockin’ laser show soundtracked by “Carry On My Wayward Son”, probably. It met with great acclaim from pretty much everyone who used it, except the iPad 1 users who just couldn’t muster the processing power necessary to run this behemoth (yeah, suck it, early adopters! Where’s yer messiah now!)

As many working in the arts know all too well, though, critical acclaim doesn’t always translate to sales, because if it did Marvel would be approaching Terrence Malick to direct the next instalment of  The Avengers (‘Father. Mother. Where were you when I got really angry?’ etc.) Harper Collins took a risk with the app’s price point, however, that more than paid off down the line: rather than the industry standard £9.99, the app debuted at £4.99, with digital publisher Alex Gatrell telling the Publishing Apps event in London this week ‘we just had this feeling that if you have a greater volume your value is actually more than if you have a smaller chunk at a higher price point’.

That feeling proved to be right on the money: whether the title benefitted from what Gatrell calls ‘the social spreading of the word’ or just from an onslaught of curious cheapskates, it shifted the 20,000 copies it needed to break even on its £50,000 production budget – not to mention marketing costs – within its first three days of going on sale.

Of course, if the app hadn’t been so well constructed to begin with, it’s unlikely that it would have done these kinds of numbers (bad word of mouth is still a killer, kids), but nevertheless, it does point to a possible future standard model for book app publishers: sell more, for less, rather than fewer, for more. CUE INSPIRATIONAL SONG.